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types of shoes for shoveling? types of shovels?

 
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I've bruised the outer edge of my foot by shoveling with soft soled shoes.

I'm wondering what others wear to shovel things and if there is a good shovel with a wider area to 'push' on while shoveling?

I think I need to find some stiff leather soled boots maybe or something with a more rigid sole although I don't think I would wear them much otherwise.

Moving dirt in the past involved picks and pry bars for the rocks and not a lot of digging...now, we have a relatively rock free area and I find digging hurts my feet.
 
pollinator
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Yeah, no shoes, for my money. I would go with work boots, not necessarily steel-toe, as I know in some applications, such as if a horse or cow can step on it, you don't want them, but I would suggest something that offers both ankle support and protection from glancing blows or knocks.

The only reason you might find yourself wanting to look at steel-toed boots is if you wish to find a boot with a steel shank running the length of the sole. That would distribute the contact point with the shovel over the whole boot, with the strain spread over your whole foot, ankle, and perhaps whatever part of your lower calf is wrapped in boot.

You might also consider loosening the dirt before working with the shovel, where applicable. I have often used a gardening fork to loosen dirt before digging, as well as one of those garden claw things whose helical tines you twist in the ground to loosen the earth. If the tines will sink, that's my favourite work-saver. When digging, say for a hugelbeet, I have used the garden claw over the whole area to be dug. It sinks to about eight inches, so I usually loosen enough to empty a foot's depth per pass.

As for type of shovel, I think it depends largely on your ground and how you work. If you always loosen the earth first, your shovel needn't be the best at cutting into compacted soil. If your soil is full of roots that you need to cut, your shovel needs to be sharp enough and sized to the task.

If anyone has definite opinions on specific shovels and their benefits/drawbacks, that might be useful.

I hope you find the boots and shovels of your dreams, Judith. Nobody likes bruised feet. Take care, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
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I always wear steel cap work boots that I get issued with by my employer - one pair for everyday and one for the home yard.

The ones made these days are so light and comfortable, with almost orthotic type inserts. Anti slip, acid and oil soles too!

A good shovel with a long timber handle for leverage, and a wide area to put ones foot - this area should have a nice wide lip to distribute the weight.
 
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What kind of shoes have you been wearing?
Sneakers?
A pair of thick soled hiking or work boots usually are fine to dig in.
 
Judith Browning
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William Bronson wrote: What kind of shoes have you been wearing?
Sneakers?
A pair of thick soled hiking or work boots usually are fine to dig in.



Yes, sneakers or my slip on 'sloggers'.  I haven't had a pair of hiking boots in years although we do take hikes that are several miles long frequently.  I guess it's time to break down and buy a pair and probably a new shovel too.

I think I need them for using the garden fork and my meadow creature broadfork also...I've become a 'tenderfoot'.

One thing I don't like about hiking boots in the garden though is they pick up a lot of soil in the tread.  A smooth leather sole would be better but not so useful elsewhere I think.

Thanks everyone...I'm trying to find a shovel with more of an edge to push on and haven't hit on the correct google phrase to call it up.
 
Judith Browning
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I did not know there were 'foot pads' that could be attached to a shovel...
A.M. Leonard
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Judith Browning
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Another style of shovel attachment to widen the foot step...

peaceful valley farm supply
 
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My granfather was a welder, and he welded big, wide places (like your "foot pads" but only going forward) onto his shovels. My mother still treasures the shovel that he'd made and was passed on to her.

As for digging, I used to only dig in some boots I have that have a nice metal bar inside them (like the ones mentioned in the steel toed shoes). Funny story: I'd gotten these at a family auction for $8 and went and walked in an old barn in them...and promptly stepped on a big ol' rusty nail. That's when I discovered the steel in the boots, and boy was I grateful!

Now, though, I generally just dig in my softstar minimalist shoes. It used to be that it hurt too much to do so. But, I've found I can dig pretty well by using my arms more to send the shovel into the ground. I also don't jumping on the shovel anymore, but instead just kind of stand on the shovel and wiggle myself back and forth to loosen the earth. It works pretty well, and it doesn't hurt my feet.

Still, if I am going to do a LOT of digging in hard ground, I'll put on my steel-shank shoes. Most of the time, though, I don't have TIME to put on those shoes. It's hard enough getting the kids in shoes and coats to get outside. If I take too long getting my shoes on, they come back inside and we have to do it all over again!
 
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My favorite shovel is one I found at Goodwill.  I think the steel was better on the shovels 50+ years ago.  If it held up to someone else's use for a few decades and is in good shape, go with that one.  

My second favorite shovel is a brute with a metal handle that I use for digging and levering rocks out.  Whenever it would break I'd weld on more metal.  It's now about 20 lbs but it keeps getting stronger (and uglier).

Edit to add:  When I started reading this thread I couldn't figure out how you'd bruise a foot shoveling snow.  
 
Judith Browning
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Edit to add:  When I started reading this thread I couldn't figure out how you'd bruise a foot shoveling snow.  



Haha...snow? What's that? Is it that cold white stuff that melts on it's own in a day or two?

I do avoid digging in general and use a broadfork or potato fork instead to loosen the soil although both of those take some 'push' from my feet.

The place I've been digging lately has been the hoop house path, trying to lower it by two feet and place the soil up on the two beds along with some spent shiitake logs.

The other place I can't get out of digging is for fruit tree holes, even though I keep them on the small side.

...and then I want to move the raspberries before spring...rearranging the 'furniture' again
 
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I can't use a long handled shovel, I'm short, and it's terrible leverage for me. I use a short, D handled shovel. Might try one of them, see if you get along with it. Long handled shovels take a lot of upper body strength to work correctly. The D handle gives you very different leverage, I use my hips as my muscle power to move dirt, not my arms.
I like the clamp on step thing! Have to think on that, bet I can fake one easily.
In general, if I have to step on a shovel to move dirt, I break it up with a turning fork or mattock first. Shovel is only for dirt moving for me, not for breaking it loose. Mattock is one of my favorite tools, shovel is one I avoid.
 
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Boots. Sharp general purpose shovel. Sometimes a sharp more specific shovel or post hole digger. A big pointed steel rod if it requires heavy carnage & whomping. Occasionally a sharp pulaski or mattock too.

 
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For hard shoveling, I use a "track shovel", also called a "Form Shovel". They have a narrow, but long blade that makes shoveling in hard digging easier. They are narrow so people working with concrete can shovel concrete inside 8 inch wide wall foundations. I call it a track shovel because I use them to shovel out the mud around my bulldozer tracks so the snow and mud does not build up in freezing weather.

But in really hard digging, there is nothing better than loosening it up first with a pick axe.

Edited to say: sorry to hear about your injured foot Judith!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Another big thing, I think, for digging, is to file the shovel sharp!

I have one shovel that is nice and sharp...and another that is dull. The sharp one digs about 3 times easier than the duller one. I really need to sharpen the dull one--my husband lost the file for a while, and we recently discovered it again, so now I can finally sharpen that shovel!
 
pollinator
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Hiking shoes may not be suited for digging - soles not stiff enough. Cheap work boots seem a better bet; or good ones if you're going to wear them much.

Round nose shovel, sharp, top edge folded 1/2" or so. Long handle for leverage.  I'm not sure how it matters if you're short to use one, but if you really find a problem w/too long handles, cut a _little_ off. The long handle allows more work w/out so much bending, and a longer reach; it also gives more leverage to pry up the earth. Welding a wider lip on might be worth the fee, even though it adds weight.

Pick or mattock (mattock also sharp).

If you have significant roots (ones that make you try a 2nd and 3rd time with the shovel) a sharp hatchet or ax and a sharp pull-type pruning saw help tremendously; but the saw will probably need resharpening after a few days of use.

But the best help would be to watch an old laborer dig for a day or two, one who's done it for many years in many ways. There _are_ good and better and simply bad ways to pour energy into the dirt.

You have a good wheel barrow, right?


Rufus
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Jay wrote:Edit to add:  When I started reading this thread I couldn't figure out how you'd bruise a foot shoveling snow.  



Oh I can. Katie does it all the time while moving snow. (LOL)


 
Nicole Alderman
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I was out digging holes today for chestnut trees, and took a better look at my favorite shovel. It looks like either my dad welded on the nice little digging platform. Here's some pictures.
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Nice L shape welded on
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View from the other side
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Inside view of the weld (I was going to wash it a bit better, but the kids need their naps)
 
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I also find that digging, whatever the type of shovel can be painful. I now use one of these. If you pour hot tea in the top end at regular intervals it can keep going for some time and I can just stay in my slippers.. I understand that you can get replacements when they wear out.

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Travis Johnson
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Amanda Launchbury-Rainey wrote:I also find that digging, whatever the type of shovel can be painful. I now use one of these. If you pour hot tea in the top end at regular intervals it can keep going for some time and I can just stay in my slippers.. I understand that you can get replacements when they wear out.



Does the replacement cost of said laborer though, outweigh the benefits of being in ones slippers?

I do not know as I am typically the one on the end of the shovel.

I do however know what the replacement cost is, of said domestic supervisors, typically called "a wife". I know many, many people would not believe Tina and Patty would want to willingly lose this fine specimen of a laborer (me), shovel in hand, to the lowly gravel pit of loneliness, but they did. Tina, was not all that expensive; an amicable divorce by all accounts, mostly because she was...shall we say...social....VERY SOCIAL. Patty was quite the opposite, and was expensive to part ways from!

So in light of all this, I might not take my chances and just buy a pair of good shoes; it just might be cheaper in the end.
 
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As a wildland firefighter and a landscape constructor/maintainer, I feel that I am qualified to be considered a professional digger. For the better part of the year, I use a shovel multiple times a week, and the other part my shovel does not leave my hands unless I am eating, sleeping, or running a chainsaw. I've used many different shovels, seen many break, and even broken a couple myself.
 I will break this down into a few categories: steps, footwear, and handles. I will include brand recommendations in situ.
 
 Steps are ALWAYS  the way to go when you have the option. The only exception I can think of is while mopping up a fire, as the step may impede stump hole penetration in narrow situations. The shovel my crew uses is the Jackson PONY Forestry shovel with a narrow point and tempered blade. I've seen a Stanley with a built in step, but the wonky shape and serrated blade makes me doubt its capabilities. The best shovels I've used in landscaping have got to be Razorbacks. Well-made with great warranties, and the majority of their shovels have steps built in. A lot of their handles are fiberglass, which is a great segue into handles.

 Fiberglass or wood? I prefer wood, but I've really been warming up to fiberglass. As a person who has rehandled many axes, hammers, and hand tools, wood is beautiful, very durable, and comfortable to use. You can also customize it to your liking and make your own handles! The key with it is having appropriate woods and orientations. Hickory cannot be beaten and I would say black locust is a great second. The orientation of the grain should be in line with the force applied for the tool's designed function. For shovels, that is perpendicular to the width of the blade. This is probably the most important thing in any wooden handle, and almost always the reason a handle breaks from force. If you're wondering why the orientation is important, try stacking some thin cardboard strips together and bending them. Which way is more difficult? Folding them like paper? Or bending along the sides of the 'grain'?
 Fiberglass is interesting. It can bend pretty decently, act as an insulator (against electricity), and requires almost no maintenance. We have a few old fiberglass shovels that have been through quite a lot of digging, and the handles are holding up surprisingly well. They work for minor prying jobs (actual prying is where a rock bar comes in) but I've seen them snap too and it isn't pretty. I cannot attest to their strength compared to hickory, but I would say that it is decent. I like the idea of not being electrocuted while transplanting, though!
 
 Footwear is exactly like everyone is saying: wear solid soles. Fire and work boots are tough, so they aren't a bother. I work in hiking boots at home and professionally. Better traction on various terrain, lighter weight, and waterproof. They too are quite solid and I have no problems using them. They typically last about 2 seasons without oiling the leathers. Fire boots last me about 5, and can double-duty as farm boots, but I rarely break them out except to run a saw. Sneakers I don't use often as I wear Vivobarefoots, but I would see no problem in dry conditions with a step. I haven't found a solid-soled pair of rain boots, so I cannot recommend anything there.

Well, that was longer-winded than I thought!
 
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I use a combination of shovels when digging.  First, a 5 long long, all-metal, narrow blade transplanting shovel to break up the hard soil.  This shovel has a lot of mass and can literally throw it vertically into the ground, then, if needed, jump up and down on the foot pegs to drive it even deeper, followed by pulling down on the long handle to pry up a chunk of soil.  Once a bunch of soil has been loosened up, I use a long handled, round nose shovel to remove the loose soil. Then, if I need to make a flat floor to the hole, I'll use a straight edge shovel to finish up. Maintaining a very sharp cutting edge is key to ease of penetrating hard soil.  Since I am using the enertia of the shovel to do much of the soil loosening, I don't use any special hardened shoes to do the job.
 
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I have a “Root Slayer” shovel that I bought 2 years ago and everyone who uses it agrees that it is the best in hard soil. It is made to go through roots but works great for tough digging. As many have recommended it has a very sharp edge and is very narrow. It may be worth breaking up the soil with this shovel and going back with a wider shovel to move the rest of the dirt. This would probably be easier than a pick ax if you aren’t used to using one.
My other suggestion is to use the weather. I try and do most of my shoveling after a good rain of at all possible or the very least get my shoveling done before July.
 
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“A Hard sole 6” farm boot will protect your arch and support your ankles” 20 years working for a water utility I’d consider myself an expert on “hand digging” with a shovel? First off steel tipped 6” farm boots are a must! Wouldn’t leave home without them. Second, Short round D handle shovel “AKA Banjo” is the tool of choice. And once you start and your body is bent forward Stay that way, I worked with more new workers that straighten up with every shovel full of dirt only to complain of lower back pain.
 
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Wendy Smith Novick wrote: My other suggestion is to use the weather. I try and do most of my shoveling after a good rain of at all possible or the very least get my shoveling done before July.



Wendy's suggestion here is the simplest way to make the job easier, in my experience. Wait for rain, or simply water the area where you plan to dig. That's why we save all that rainwater, right?

I'll second the "sharpen your shovel" advice, and the use of a rock bar when it comes to prying them out. Saves many a shovel blade and handle.
 
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Judith Browning wrote:I've bruised the outer edge of my foot by shoveling with soft soled shoes.

I'm wondering what others wear to shovel things and if there is a good shovel with a wider area to 'push' on while shoveling?

I think I need to find some stiff leather soled boots maybe or something with a more rigid sole although I don't think I would wear them much otherwise.

Moving dirt in the past involved picks and pry bars for the rocks and not a lot of digging...now, we have a relatively rock free area and I find digging hurts my feet.



I spent 80$ on a very well made all steel shovel. It has a thick head and what is likely a chromoly shaft/handle that is fairly springy but enables my 240lbs to stand and bounce on the end. My all steel tamping rods for example bend instead. It's a bit heavy for moving a lot of material, but great for digging in rocky soil because I never have to worry about breaking or bending it. It also has a fairly wide lip on the spade end for your foot as well.

Also, as far as shoes go, get something with a shank insert, either carbon fiber or steel. it's the only way to go for digging through hard ground with a shovel.
 
Judith Browning
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Thanks for all of the great advice!  

I did finish digging the hoop house path and now it's too wet to do the other digging and forking I'd like to do.
That is giving me time to look for some better shoes or boots to wear and for my bruised foot to heal.

Amanda, I have one of those also, getting a little worn around the edges...no replacement for that one though, just gets better with age

 
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Can’t see “Bounce” while using a shovel if the soil is that hard use a Chisel Tip Digging Bar to soften the area to be dug, it can all so be used to chop roots,
 
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Jim Morr wrote:Can’t see “Bounce” while using a shovel if the soil is that hard use a Chisel Tip Digging Bar to soften the area to be dug, it can all so be used to chop roots,



With blackberries and other invasives, you don't as much of the root out of the ground as possible.
 
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